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2014 Cadell Bursary Report - Laura Baird

Thanks to the Cadell Bursary award, I undertook an online module with the University of Dundee on Digital Preservation. Part of my role, as Information Officer for Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority (pictured above), is to ensure we have good policies and procedures in place for managing our records.

A National Park is probably not the first place to spring to mind in the context of records and digital preservation. I am lucky to be based in one of the most scenic workplace environments in Scotland! The core activities of the Park are conservation, promotion of the area as a sustainable tourist destination, and rural development, working with the local communities who live in the Park.  Like any organisation, our records are now mainly electronic, and I need to ensure they are looked after properly.

The field of digital preservation is a relatively new area of records management. As our tutor pointed out, we are all just learning how to preserve records in new formats. I can no longer access the information I saved on a floppy disk to complete my University dissertation in the early 1990s, and tools including memory sticks, tablets and cloud storage, which are commonplace now, were unknown technologies twenty years ago.

The course I completed was delivered via Dundee University‚Äôs distance learning online environment. In taking on a course like this, it is necessary to be very self-motivated.  Having previously completed a distance learning diploma with the University, I was aware of the level of commitment involved. There are several assessed tasks to complete, before a final report and essay, which I was writing over the Christmas holidays when everyone else I know would have been watching TV. That took a lot of self-discipline!

I can no longer access the information I saved on a floppy disk to complete my University dissertation in the early 1990s, and tools including memory sticks, tablets and cloud storage, which are commonplace now, were unknown technologies twenty years ago.

One of the best parts of this style of study, is the use of an online discussion forum. Specific topics for discussion are given throughout the course. Learning from the experience of other students when they post about their experience of preserving digital records was very enlightening. We had one Skype chat too, where students were able to talk more directly to each other and to the tutor.

I learned about current best practice in managing electronic records preservation, which is being developed by a number of lead organisations. As a solo practitioner working for quite a small organisation, the resources and reading material used on the digital preservation course have been an invaluable means of equipping me with information, which may not provide me with all the answers, but which certainly pointed me in the right direction. I have gained a greater understanding of what is available and what remains to be developed in this area.

My thanks to the Scottish Council for Archives for awarding me the Cadell Bursary, and thanks to the staff at Dundee University for their delivery of my chosen module.